Posted by: nancyisanders | November 6, 2009

Author Interview: Dianne E. Butts

Dianne E. Butts 044 (2)
Meet Author Dianne E. Butts!
E-mail:dbwrites@juno.com
Blog: Deliver Me
Web site: Dianne E. Butts, Freelance Writer
Twitter: http://Twitter.com/DianneEButts

Bio:
Dianne E. Butts has more than 225 publications in over fifty magazines and fifteen books. She has written for national publications such as Focus on the Family magazine, The Plain Truth, Light and Life, The Lookout, On Mission, Enrichment Journal, Bible Advocate, the Salvation Army’s War Cry, and the international Christian Motorcyclists Association’s Heartbeat. She has written for denominational take-home papers including Live, Evangel, Purpose, Standard, and Encounter for teenagers; for online publications including CBN.com, Crosswalk.com, TheChristianPulse.com, and Now What?; as well as devotionals including The Quiet Hour and Devotions. She writes frequently for writers in Christian Communicator and Cross & Quill. She has sold short fiction to Live and Evangel, and has a story appearing in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Jr. in 2010. Her articles have been published in Great Britain, Bulgaria, Poland, Canada, and Korea.

Dianne’s book contributions include Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Best Stories of Faith, Zondervan’s New Women’s Devotional Bible, and the just-released book God Encounters: Stories of His Involvement in Life’s Greatest Moments (Howard Books, October 2009).

Her current project is a book of true stories of unplanned pregnancies, Deliver Me, which may end up being her second self-published book. Follow the progress of this book on http://www.DeliverMeBook.blogspot.com.

Dianne offers a free, monthly e-mailed e-zine for writers. Subscribe on her web site at http://www.DianneEButts.com.

When she’s not writing, Dianne enjoys riding her motorcycle with her husband, Hal, and gardening with her cat, P.C. The trio lives in Colorado.

DearAmerica_Cover_Front_180px

Featured Book:
Dear America
by Dianne E. Butts
Ampelos, 2002

Written in the weeks following 9/11/2001, Dear America: A Letter of Comfort and Hope to a Grieving Nation talks about grief, presents the Gospel as a 5-act story, discusses some differences between Christianity and Islam, answers some questions about Muslims, and gives readers ideas of how to go on with God. The book, which sells for $6.95, is available on Amazon.com and Dianne’s web site.

Interview:
Q: Describe the journey you’ve taken as a writer.
A:
I never started out to be a writer. I didn’t dream of writing since I was three years old like so many writers’ interviews I’ve read. My writer’s journey started when I was a teenager and I wrote a few “poems”—or at least I thought they were poems because they rhymed. I entered one in a contest to be used in our high school yearbook (but I lost out to the Beatles and the lyrics to their song, “The Long and Winding Road”).

However, my high school English teacher got her hands on some of my poems (I can’t remember how. I was certainly too shy to share them!) and she took an interest in me. One day she took me down to the school library and introduced me to Writer’s Digest’s Writer’s Market. She showed me how it worked and showed me how to format my poems for submission. We sent one poem out to three places and got two rejection slips. I remember one of them said, “This sounds like a Hallmark card.” I took that as a compliment although I knew that’s not how they meant it. We never heard back from the third place.

Then my writing journey paused for a dozen years.

I married in my twenties and we followed my husband’s job to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where I went to work in a gas station/rental shop. The ladies I worked with there were Christians. I’d gone to church some when I was a kid, but really didn’t know much. I’d even “prayed the prayer of salvation” and had “given my life to the Lord” when I was younger—several times! But not knowing any Christians and with no one to teach me or answer my questions, my weak faith wilted every time. But these ladies talked with me about Christ and answered my questions about Him and God honored those previous professions of faith and the more I learned about Him and the Bible, the more on fire I became.

I deeply wanted to share the faith I now understood, but, still being very shy, I had no idea how to do so. Then I started thinking, “What if I could write an article and get it published?” Because of Mrs. Hodges in high school, I knew what to do. I went to the library in Steamboat Springs, found the reference section and the newest volume of the Writer’s Market, and I was thirty years old when my writing career began. That was twenty years ago. Now it’s my passion to help others understand God and His story in the Bible, primarily through writing.

Q: What is one word of advice you received as a writer that you would like to share with others?
A:
Probably the most valuable advice I received is to study the publication or publishing house before you submit. I consistently hear editors say they receive so much material that they can’t use and it’s obvious the writer has never seen their magazine or looked at their published book catalog. Writers who do this are seen as real amateurs. This type of submission clogs up the system and hurts all writers because fewer and fewer editors will continue to accept freelance submissions.

The new twist on this idea for me is your advice, Nancy, to really study children’s book publisher’s catalogs and find something to query them on. I learned early on that authors need to make sure the book publishing house they are approaching publishes the type of book they want to write. But to basically forget about the type of book we want to write and just look at their catalog and find something we can write for them is new to me. But it has that “Duh. Why didn’t I think of that?” feeling!

Probably the next word of advice I received that has really paid off is, “Go to a writer’s conference.” I started out writing alone, but I soon heard of the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference and went. This past spring I went to that same conference for the twentieth year in a row. Besides what Mrs. Hodges taught me in high school, nearly everything else I’ve learned about writing for publication I learned there, not to mention the friends and contacts with editors I’ve made which have helped me get my foot in the door at magazines.

Q: What are some benefits of self-publishing a book?
A:
For one, you stand to make more money per book sold than you would earn from royalties. Royalties on books are often less than a dollar per book sold, sometimes much lower. I heard a multi-published author at a recent conference say he earns 10 cents royalty per book sold. With a self-published book, you can often earn several dollars per copy sold, but that assumes you’re able to sell copies of your book! Many self-published authors find they don’t really have outlets to promote and sell their books. This is one of the biggest lessons I learned with Dear America. Ask yourself, and answer realistically,

– Who are my potential book-buyer/readers?
– Where are they and how can I reach them?
– How am I going to let them know about my book?

Another benefit to self-publishing is that you have complete control over your book, but that’s also a great challenge. As I consider self-publishing Deliver Me, I don’t know if I’m making good decisions about things like the back-cover copy and the price. And what am I going to put on the cover that will cause someone to pick up my book and consider buying it? I don’t have a committee or a sales department behind me to help me figure these things out like a traditional publisher does.

Finally, perhaps one of the biggest benefits to self-publishing, next to making more income from the sales of your book, is the time factor. Authors considering self-publishing probably already know you can wait years for a traditional publisher to respond and finally say “no thanks” to publishing your book. Sometimes we just need our book out, or need it out now so we don’t miss opportunities. Finding a traditional publisher can take months or years, with no guarantee you’ll ever find one interested in publishing your book. Once you do find a traditional publisher who wants to publish your book, it will be 18 to 24 months from the time you sign a contract before your book is out.

On the other hand, if you self-publish your book, you can have it out in 6 months or 3 months or even just a couple weeks after delivering your computer file to a printer.

Q: Share one tip you’d like to give to an author who is considering self-publishing a book.
A:
This is a huge, all-inclusive “tip,” but honestly the one thing authors need to do when they’re self-publishing is to know what you’re doing. Please don’t think just because you’ve sent your proposal out to a couple publishers and haven’t heard back in a couple months that you should just find a printer and pay to have it printed! I’ve heard countless stories like this and the author, after spending tens of thousands of dollars, usually ends up with a garage full of books he or she can’t sell.

You MUST do your homework!

Find out about ISBNs and bar codes, because you can’t sell your book on Amazon or in stores without them. Do a budget and figure out what you might have to spend. How much is your cover going to cost you? Interior design? Do you have the skills or someone to put it all in the format a printer requires? Does this person know where the preface and title page and footnotes go? For goodness sakes don’t you dare go to press without hiring a professional editor! How much will that cost?

Are you going to hire a self-publishing company to do all this for you? Have you checked out numerous companies and compared prices and packages? Have you checked the company to see what others thought of working with them? There are some scams out there so ask around and check out any companies you’re considering so you don’t get taken!

How are you going to sell your book? Are you a speaker with opportunities to sell the book? If not, how are you going to reach readers?

When you find a buyer, how are you going to collect the money? Through your web site? How will you deliver the book? By mail? What about collecting sales tax and shipping? Or will your self-publishing company do “order fulfillment,” which is doing all this for you?

Do you know the different between Print-On-Demand (POD) publishing and off-set printing, and do you know which is right for you?

I’ve talked with some would-be authors who don’t even know the difference between going with a traditional publishing company and self-publishing. When they fork out a bundle of money to have their book published, they just think this is how it’s done. They have no idea about being paid advance and royalties by traditional publishers. They have no idea what they’re getting or what they need for their book to be a success. If you don’t know how traditional publishing works, then I’d say you don’t know enough to self-publish your book and make it a financial and business success.
There’s so much to know and learn. Search the internet or get some books, like Dan Poynter’s The Self-Publishing Manual, and learn all you can. I’ve learned a lot. I also have a lot left to learn. This is what my blog at http://www.DeliverMeBook.blogspot.com is all about. On this blog I’m writing about what I learned while self-publishing Dear America, what I’ve learned since, and what I’m doing to make my next self-published book—which may well be Deliver Me: Hope, Help, and Options When You’re Facing an Unplanned Pregnancy—a financial and business success. (That proposal is still out to a few traditional publishers and I’m waiting to hear from them, but in the mean time I’m actively writing the manuscript and getting ready to self-publish if I don’t find a traditional publisher soon.)

I’m sharing everything I know about self-publishing in my blog in order to help other authors successfully publish their books and not end up with a bunch of money spent on a garage full of books they can’t sell. There’re enough of those stories, and I want our reader’s stories to end better!

Thank you, Nancy, for inviting me to be on your blog today. I hope your readers find this information useful. It has been great fun!

Thank YOU, Dianne, for all your wonderful tips and encouragement! -Nancy


Responses

  1. Very good information. Thank you!

  2. I enjoyed reading this interview. It encourages me to keep studying those markets and knowing my audience.

    Self-publishing is a big learning curve. I have two booklets I self-published but I haven’t marketed them well. That in itself has been a lesson.


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